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A Matter of Practice: Wisdom of Old Oil Peddler

Jan 25, 2010

Arrow and Target

Storyteller: Thomas Edison, the great American inventor, used to say, “Genius was 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

Although some people argue that Edison was emphasizing the “One” percent inspiration, instead, this quote is widely used to show the importance of 99% “perspiration”.

When we see some people showing amazing skills, such as in sports, playing instruments, juggling, acrobatics, etc., we might talk to ourselves: Geeez, I can never do this!

However, you might not know how many months and years they have been practicing the skill off the stage. They failed frequently and painfully in the beginning. Then they failed less. Someday they started to shine. And finally they made it on the stage in front of you.

It’s a matter of practice.

Here I will tell you a fable story written by Ouyang Xiu of Song Dynasty. He wanted to tell us: Any skill can be learned — It’s only “A Matter of Practice”

It’s Only A Matter Of Practice

During the Northern Song Dynasty, there was a skilled archer named Chen Yaozi. His fame spread far and wide. Every time he performed, a large crowd gathered to watch.

A Matter Of Practice

A Matter of Practice

One day an old man who made his living selling oil happened to pass by. Seeing the crowd around him, he also stopped to watch.

All eyes were bent on Chen Yaozi. His shots were very precise, and the crowd cheered him on with rounds and rounds of applause. The old man, however, just nodded his head. He did not seem to be the least impressed.

Chen Yaozi was not pleased. After taking his bow, he stalked angrily up to the old man and eyed him from head to foot. “Do you know how to shoot?” he snapped.

The old man shook his head and said, “No, I don’t! Still, I don’t think there’s anything special with your performance. It’s only a matter of practice.”

Chen Yaozi flew into a temper. “You hardly know a thing about archery,” he snarled, “yet you’re pretending to be an expert!”

“Don’t get upset over what I said!” said the old man. “I make my living selling oil, and through the years I’ve mastered a little trick. Let me show you this trick, then you’ll see what I mean.”

The old man set his oil gourd on the ground and placed a coin over its mouth. He then stood up and began pouring oil using a ladle. The oil went straight through the hole of the coin, filling up the oil gourd without staining the coin at all.

“There’s nothing special about this, either.” smiled the old man, “It’s only a matter of practice.”

From then on, Chen Yaozi became a very humble archer.

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